The Winter Vault
“The future casts its shadow on the past. In this way, first gestures contain everything . . .”
Anne Michaels’s first work of fiction in more than a decade, The Winter Vault is a stunning, richly layered, and timeless novel that is everything we could hope for for Michaels’s second novel — and more. Set in Canada and Egypt, and with flashbacks to England and Poland after the war, The Winter Vault is a spellbinding love story that juxtaposes momentous historical events with the most intimate moments of individual lives.
In 1964, a newly married Canadian couple settle into a houseboat on the Nile just below Abu Simbel. At the time of the building of the Aswam dam, Avery Escher is one of the engineers responsible for the dismantling and reconstruction of a sacred temple, a “machine-worshipper” who is nonetheless sensitive to their destructive power. Jean is a botanist by avocation, passionately interested in everything that grows. They met on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, witnessing the construction of the Seaway as it swallowed towns, homes, and lives. Now, at the edge of another world about to be inundated in the name of progress, much of what they most believe in is tested.
When a tragic event occurs, nearing the end of Avery’s time in Egypt, he and Jean return to separate lives in Toronto; Avery to school to study architecture and Jean into the orbit of Lucjan, a Polish émigré artist whose haunting tales of occupied Warsaw pull her further from her husband, while offering her the chance to assume her most essential life.
Breathtaking, vivid in its exploration of both the physical and emotional worlds of its characters, intensely moving and lyrical, The Winter Vault is a radiant work of fiction and contains all the elements for which Anne Michaels is celebrated.
READ AN EXCERPT
1. Discuss the metaphor of the title, The Winter Vault.
2. Have you read Michaels's first novel, Fugitive Pieces? What parallels do you see between that novel and her new novel?
3. Reread the two passages at the very beginning. Now that you've read the entire book, what do the phrases “No...
— Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Has it been worth the wait? It has. . . . Anne Michaels, in short, is back. "
— Globe and Mail
"A tender love story set against an intriguing bit of history is handled with uncommon skill."
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A major achievement. . . . "
— NOW magazine (Four Ns)
"Literature is all the better for it."
— The New York Times
"The anticipation, more than a decade in the building, has been eager, the recent buzz intense. And if McClelland & Stewart sees The Winter Vault, its new novel from Anne Michaels, as the publishing event of the season, there is vibrant and compelling justification. . . . "
— Ottawa Citizen